We had my Grandpa’s services on Saturday, and then yesterday morning my uncle died. As I’ve been with family, I’ve thought about the legacy we leave behind. Grandpa was one of my heroes. Today, I wanted to share with you one way I turned who he was into inspiration for my stories. A couple years ago for Christmas, he had a ceremony of sorts at Christmas. As I watched, I realized it was the perfect way to end my Nebraska World War II series. So that moment became the epilogue in Captive Dreams.
May we all leave such a legacy behind.
Sixty-three years later
Warmth flowed from the fire crackling in the fireplace. The laughter and pounding feet of children running up and down the stairs brought a smile to Anna’s face. On those rare occasions when the whole family gathered, she couldn’t help counting her blessings. God never ceased to overwhelm her with His goodness.
Since that day so long ago when Sid took her hand in the small white chapel at Camp Atlanta and they’d recited their vows, God had walked with them. Through the joys of the birth of each child. A daughter just like her. Two sons, each as different as could be. A second daughter who brought such joy to Anna’s heart with the close friendship they shared.
But the story didn’t stop there. No, by God’s goodness, they’d walked through their share of valleys, always toward the peek of the sun’s rays on the other side. There was the child they buried before his time. The lay-offs at the company that employed Sid. The uncertainty of his next job, and Anna’s return to work long enough to make ends meet. The loss of Papa and their eventual move back to the farm.
Yet through it all, God had walked, each step beside her. She’d even seen His hand prepare the way for them on occasion. How else could she explain the wonderful men and women who had joined their family by marrying the children? And the blessing when those unions added grandchildren to the family.
The grandchildren delighted her heart. They’d filled her days with joy in her sixties as she chased seven little ones all over the farm. Now they’d magnified the joy by marrying and having children of their own.
Today, the pounding feet that beat a rhythm in her heart came from the nine great-grandchildren. And next year, if God allowed her to live so long, there’d be two more. His goodness knew no bounds.
“What’s putting that sweet smile on your face?”
Anna looked up to see Sid standing beside her. Age had pushed his shoulders forward and his knees didn’t cooperate like they used to, but he was every bit the proud solider she’d met in 1944. “Counting my many blessings.”
He chuckled in a gravelly voice. “Let me guess. Four children and spouses, seven grandchildren and their spouses, and nine great-grandchildren.”
“Yes. He’s been so good to us.”
Sid pulled her to her feet. “He has indeed. All right everyone. Settle down for a moment.”
Anna watched him, uncertain what Sid was up to as she snuggled into his shoulder. They hadn’t discussed any grand announcements. One thing about Sid, even after sixty-three years, he continued to surprise her.
The noise calmed down as their children and grandchildren found seats. Their youngest son Bruce stood at the stairs to prevent the little ones from coming up from the basement.
Sid cleared his throat. “Your mother and I agreed we wouldn’t exchange gifts this year. When you reach our age, there’s not much left that you need.”
Soft chuckles filled the room.
“Sixty-three years ago, I first saw this lovely woman. She wore her blond curls in a short hair-do, and she had the perkiest nose and sweetest smile of any woman I’d ever seen. I decided right then and there that I had to get to know her. Over the summer of 1944, she pushed me away, and then I pushed her away. We chased each other. Finally, I caught her, and I haven’t regretted it for one moment. The white rose, please.”
Anna’s eyes widened as she saw their oldest grand-daughter, Catherine, coming toward her with a single white rose. Tears pooled in the corners of her eyes when Sid took the rose and handed it to her.
“You were pure as this rose when we married. And the purity of our love has carried us through many years.”
Anna buried her nose in the rose, inhaled its sweet fragrance, hoping to hide her emotion.
“But our love didn’t stop in 1944. By God’s immeasurable grace our family has grown until we almost don’t fit in this house anymore. Each addition to the family has been perfect. Each loss poignant. But through it all my love for you never faltered. The red rose, please.”
This time Catherine brought forward a single red rose. Sid took it and gently handed it to Anna. “Know that I have loved you for sixty-three years, and will continue to love you for as many days and years as the good Lord chooses to give us.”
He leaned toward her, hesitated. He wiped a tear from her cheek with a work-worn hand. Then he kissed her, and she responded to the depths of her soul. Catcalls and clapping filled the room, until she pulled back from Sid.
“I love you, Sid.”
“I love you, too.”
She surveyed the room, and knew that every moment, every challenge had been worth it as she watched the evidence of their love.